International Sunday School Lesson for August 11, 2013
Scripture Text : Nehemiah 9:2, 6-10, 30-36
Purpose: To seek in worship the strength to resist the influences of the surrounding secular culture and witness to it
Background Nehemiah 9
Nehemiah 9:2, 6-10, 30-36 (CEB)
2After the Israelites separated themselves from all of the foreigners, they stood to confess their sins and the terrible behavior of their ancestors.........
6You alone are the Lord.
You alone made heaven, even the heaven of heavens, with all their forces.
You made the earth and all that is on it, and the seas and all that is in them.
You preserve them all, and the heavenly forces worship you.
7Lord God, you are the one who chose Abram.
You brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham.
8You found him to be faithful before you,
and you made a covenant with him.
You promised to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites,
the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites.
And you have kept your promise because you are righteous.
9You saw the affliction of our ancestors in Egypt
and heard their cry at the Reed Sea.
10You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh,
all his servants, and the people of his land.
You knew that they had acted arrogantly against our ancestors.
You made a name for yourself, a name that is famous even today.......
30You were patient with them for many years
and warned them by your spirit through the prophets.
But they wouldn’t listen,
so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples.
31In your great mercy, however, you didn’t make an end of them.
Neither did you forsake them, for you are a merciful and compassionate God.
32Now, our God, great and mighty and awesome God,
you are the one who faithfully keeps the covenant.
Don’t treat lightly all of the hardship that has come upon us,
upon our kings, our officials, our priests, our prophets, our ancestors, and all your people,
from the time of the kings of Assyria until today.
33You have been just in all that has happened to us;
you have acted faithfully, and we have done wrong.
34Our kings, our officials, our priests, and our ancestors haven’t kept your Instruction.
They haven’t heeded your commandments and the warnings that you gave them.
35Even in their own kingdom, surrounded by the great goodness that you gave to them,
even in the wide and rich land that you gave them,
they didn’t serve you or turn from their wicked works.
36So now today we are slaves,
slaves in the land that you gave to our ancestors
to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Our text begins with the words “after the Israelites separated themselves from all of the foreigners.” You must go back to the Book of Ezra chapter 10 and read that first to understand the history of the writers comments. The Book of Ezra ends by listing all of those that had married alien women, or women that were not of Jewish decent.
The people convinced Ezra that all of the wives and children should be separated from all of the men that had married the non Jewish women. An appropriate sacrifice was instituted to remove the quilt and sin of the disobedience.
Now, some years later, the Israelites gather once again and confess both their own sin and the sins of their fathers for the same thing. If you compare Ezra 10 with Nehemiah 9 you will find the names of some Levites that had married the pagan women mentioned, and they are also present for Nehemiah's gathering.
The gathering goes through a great litany of all that God had done for these descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the end they make another covenant with God that they will no longer do this thing. They make a legal document and sign it, like that will somehow work to keep them from falling back into the sin that had been forbidden from the time they first entered into Canaan.
It should be pointed out that God on occasion had blessed these marriages, as in the case of Ruth (a Moabite) and Rahab (the harlot) and they became part of the Messianic linage recorded in Matthew 1:5.
The question always becomes, how can we be in the world but not a part of it? I think the high priestly prayer of Jesus in the garden gives us some help. John 17:13-19 13Now I’m coming to you and I say these things while I’m in the world so that they can share completely in my joy.14I gave your word to them and the world hated them, because they don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world. 15I’m not asking that you take them out of this world but that you keep them safe from the evil one. 16They don’t belong to this world, just as I don’t belong to this world.17Make them holy in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19I made myself holy on their behalf so that they also would be made holy in the truth. Jesus is telling us our mission is to proclaim to the world the joys of being a follower of Jesus the Christ, and HE prays for our safety in doing so. And in John 15 Jesus said these words, 9 “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.
Acknowledging our sins is important, but we know in our own strength, living a holy life is impossible outside of a real relationship with Jesus. Jesus wants us to be holy so that our joy will be complete and ask us to share that with the world so that they too can have the real joy that comes from a relationship with God's only Son. Today we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and to keep us safe, we do not need a written contract with God as our text suggest. The debt was settled long ago, and it was sealed by the Holy Spirit. We need to go and tell.